The Delaware County Board of Commissioners on Monday (Jan. 28) unanimously approved the motor vehicle license permissive tax requested by the county engineer for the benefit of the county’s roads.
According to Delaware County Engineer Chris Bauserman, collection on the new $5 tax will begin Jan. 1, 2020, on the estimated 200,000 vehicles registered in county. It’s estimated the new tax will yield $1.1 million in additional revenue for the county’s road budget. He said the last levy on vehicle registrations was enacted in 1988.
“A hundred percent of the revenue goes to the county,” he said. “That money will be used for several sources … primarily to address the need to maintain and operate the transportation system.”
Bauserman added the county has made great improvements through expansion of the county’s transportation system, but there’s still more to do.
“You’ll note we have a $120 million, 5-year capital plan for improvements and expansion to the system,” Bauserman told the board. “Where we’re not keeping up is on the maintenance of those improvements that we’re making.”
Bauserman said the revenue for capital improvements is separate from the maintenance revenues. He said the maintenance revenues come from gas taxes and vehicle registration fees.
“The capital side of things has come from the sales tax revenue, and we’ve been able to leverage a large amount of grant money,” he said.
Bauserman added since 1988, the population of the county has “increased from 60,000 to 200,000,” and the amount of pavement maintained by his office has increased “by over 30 percent.”
“I think that it’s good that we have been able to manage during that extent of time, but the revenues are not increasing and the demands are increasing in a tremendous way,” he said. “We have to protect the investment that we’re making in our transportation system as we expand it.”
Bauserman said the revenue would also increase the county’s ability to partner with local and state government partners on projects. He said many of the projects cross city, village, township and state boundaries.
“This would give us an expanded ability to do (those things),” he said. “One of the things we’re hearing from our local governments is they just don’t have the local funds to commit toward a grant application. We currently match one-to-one. Currently, we’re looking at a two-to-one match to help local governments.”
Commissioner Gary Merrell said the county has good roads, and residents take them for granted.
“This $1.1 million is not going to solve all of our problems,” he said. “It helps somewhat.”
Merrell said the tax gives the county the opportunity “to get more money to the townships and the cities.”
“It’s an opportunity to provide some funding for the transportation district we put into place,” he added. “If we don’t do what we can do based on the law today, we’re being a little negligent.”
Commissioner Jeff Benton said transportation funding is a major issue for the state and nation, and it needs to be addressed.
“This is just one item of many that needs to be addressed to truly provide adequate funding for transportation,” he said.
Benton added there are other things that he would like to see done at the state and federal levels for transportation funding.
“This will reduce the number (funds needed to address the county’s transportation needs), but there is still a big gap,” he said. “It helps, but it’s certainly not going to solve it.”
Commissioner Barb Lewis, a former Genoa Township trustee, said she also supports the increase as outlined by the county engineer and her fellow commissioners.
“It’s been 30 years,” she said. “We have to keep our roads in good shape.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Liberty Township resident John Hartman expressed his belief that the issue of increasing taxes is something people should have the chance to vote on.
“I happen to believe that the best policy on tax and fee increases is to ask the public to decide,” he said. “I happen to believe taxes should not be increased without a vote of the public.”
Hartman added that even though he sees the logical behind the tax, he feels it would be beneficial to give the citizens the opportunity to vote on the increase.
“The commissioners can only put something on the ballot when the statue says they can,” said Aric Hochstettler, an assistant Delaware County prosecutor.
Commissioners held two public hearings concerning the matter.
The request for the levy was initiated by the Delaware County Engineer’s Office during the commissioners’ Nov. 26 session.
Ohio Revised Code Section 4504.24 was passed by 132nd Ohio General Assembly in 2017, granting county commissioners the authority to levy the vehicle registration tax for the sole purpose of the county’s roads.
“The board of county commissioners of a county may, by resolution, levy an annual license tax upon the operation of motor vehicles on the public roads and highways in that county for any authorized purpose,” states Ohio Revised Code 4504.24. “The tax shall be at the rate of five dollars per motor vehicle on all motor vehicles in the district of registration of which is located in the county levying the tax, as defined in section 4503.10 of the Revised Code.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.